Boys’ basketball opens playoffs with dominant win over Manor

Electric start powers Chaps to 60-38 win over Mustangs
The varsity boys’ basketball team poses for a photo following its 60-38 win over Manor Monday, Feb. 19 at the St. Edward’s University Recreation and Athletics Center. The Chaps outscored the Mustangs 21-2 in the first quarter to help them to victory.

When the playoffs roll around, the emotion and nerves alone are sometimes enough to throw a team off of its game. Head boys’ basketball coach Robert Lucero recognizes that, in a single-elimination tournament, each game is packed with both the hope for a state championship, but also the impending fear of a season-ending loss. 

“You’re starting to deal with the finality of the season, and you’re starting to deal with the finality of high school careers,” Lucero said. “It can be a little nerve racking; that first one is always tough.”

However, Lucero and his varsity boys’ basketball team didn’t let their emotions get the best of them Monday night. The Chaps (27-7, 14-2 District 26-6A) jumped on Manor (22-11, 9-5 District 25-6A) early and never looked back, cruising to a 60-38 victory in the first round of the UIL 6A Boys’ State Basketball playoffs at St. Edwards’ University’s Recreation and Athletics Center Monday night. 

Despite having their longest break between games since the season started in November, the Chaps looked sharp from the opening tip, using a 21-2 first-quarter advantage to pave the path toward victory. 

“We hadn’t played in a long time because we had the bye, so, to get off to that start — that was huge,” Lucero said. “I felt that the guys did a pretty good job defensively, we were slowing them down, and we did a good job of making them take some tough shots.”

The first-quarter dominance began on the first possession of the game. After winning the tip-off, the Chaps got right to work offensively. An inside basket by forward senior Wonder Kahozi and back-to-back 3-pointers by guard senior Donovan Lee gave the Chaps a 8-0 lead and forced a Manor timeout just a minute and 24 seconds into the game. 

“I just came in with the mindset that I wanted to come out guns blazing,” Lee said. “I wanted to make sure that we had a lot of momentum coming into the playoffs, and I want to keep that momentum.”

While the timeout gave Manor some time to regroup, it was to no avail, as the Chaps continued their run out of the break. Lee scored a floater from the baseline to extend the Chaparral lead to 10, and they didn’t budge defensively. Kahozi swatted away two shots and guard senior Max Purushothaman grabbed three steals in the first four minutes of the game. 

“We made sure that we let them know that they weren’t gonna get anything easy,” Kahozi said. “If they wanted to get to the rim, they would have to take to some contact.”

Backed by the ruthless defensive effort, the Chaps extended their lead to 18-0, keeping the Mustangs off of the scoreboard for nearly six minutes, breaking the drought with just 2:15 to play in the first quarter. The Chaps downright dominated in the first quarter, taking a 19 point lead into the second. 

With their backs against the wall early, Manor began to resort to a high-tempo offense and an intense, high-press defense in the second quarter. Right out of the break, it was working. The Mustangs went on a quick 9-5 run to inch themselves closer. 

Nonetheless, the Chaps wouldn’t break. Slowing down the offense, the Chaps began to find open shots, and cashed in. They went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter to get their largest lead of the game, a 27 point advantage. The Chaps led 37-12 at half. 

“We handled the pressure well,” Lee said. “They tried to speed us up, but we played at our own pace.” 

This was the mantra for the rest of the night. The Mustangs threw everything at the Chaps in the second half, switching defensive schemes, running a full-court press and experimenting on offense, but the Chaps continued to control the game. 

“They were mixing up different zone schemes, like trap to man and man pressure,” Kahozi said. “We made sure that we were crisp with our cuts, and we knew what we were doing.”

The game got physical in the second half, as both teams were diving for loose balls and contesting shots at the rim. The third quarter went back-and-forth, with emotion and frustration flaring from both sidelines at times.

“I think that playoff games are always physical, and the longer you play, the more physical it gets,” Lucero said. “You always think that referees are gonna maybe call more, but it’s actually the opposite. They always start letting a little bit more go, so I thought it was good practice for us. They’re just not going to call as many fouls, especially if you have a little bit of lead there.”

Still, the Chaps held strong, avoiding costly turnovers, chewing the clock and continuing to find the basket. The Chaps held the ball for the final few minutes, winning 60-38. Four Chaparrals reached double figures, with Kahozi leading the way, scoring 18 points. Guard senior Gavin Paull added 17 points as well. 

While the game was fairly even throughout the final three quarters, the Chaps’ commanding first quarter performance made the difference, allowing them to cruise to a fairly comfortable victory. 

While greater stakes lie on the line in the next round, Lucero and the Chaps recognize their next opponent as an eerily similar challenge to what they faced in the second half Monday— the Chaps will face Clemens, a 26-9 squad which defeated San Antonio Johnson 53-49 in their first playoff game Tuesday night, on Friday, Feb. 23 at Hays High School at 7 p.m.

“[Clemens] is going to have similar pressure, so we need to handle that,” Lucero said. “When they send two at the ball, we get better spacing…If we do get a lead, let’s just grind through it, and try to make sure that we don’t give up anything.”

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